“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
- Dr. Seuss
On Monday afternoon I received a call to sub the last two days of school. The job was for PE at the “rally” school. I’d subbed at the school (especially the middle school grades) pretty often, but not too much lately. I thought for sure I’d be off the last day of school. Who takes off the last day? But I thought the same thing last spring and worked at the same school.
Last year, the morning of the last day of school I received a call to sub Spanish. When I arrived at the office, I couldn’t find the absent teacher’s mailbox. Because it was early (and there was a teacher/staff party in the library), the office was empty. When a teacher or two trickled in, I gave the name of the absent teacher. They had no idea whom I was talking about. The school’s Spanish teacher had a different name. (Great.)
I clutched my paper with the unknown teacher’s name. The custodian entered the office, so I decided to ask him. He actually wanted to help, leading me to the soiree and introducing me to the Spanish teacher. Turns out she worked with another Spanish teacher on that day, but most of the staff don’t know her since she hardly came in. This Spanish teacher asked me if I was looking for a job, introduced me to the principal, and made sure I had coffee and a danish.
When we went up to her classroom, the students showered her with end-of-the-year gifts. That’s when I got melancholy. For the last bunch of years, I’d been with my students for the last day of school. I imagined the students I’d left three moths ago at that moment. Normally, I bought each child a book (Scholastic has these specials like 8 for $20). I’d give each student a card with a personalized note. I called the teacher I’d worked with and left a message for her to tell the students I wished them a good summer.
It wound up being a rainy day. The teachers hadn’t planned what to do with the students if it rained. All the activities had been for outside. So they scrambled with movies and games, and I floated from room to room to help out.
Because my job was for PE this time, rain or shine, I knew the students would be sent to gym on the last day of school. Of course the teachers would want a break to clean, do cumulative reports, or just take a break.
First-graders came just before some flag lowering ceremony, so the other sub and I had to usher over forty kids we didn’t know outside by the flagpole.
Question: How do you keep track of that many children when you don’t know which ones you’re in charge of?
Answer: Not well.
It didn’t help that the other sub could care less about watching children or stopping misbehavior. On a ninety-degree day, you’d think six-year-olds might be lethargic. But these boys were able to pull up chunks of grass to hurl at one another, spin, and play tag. My job became TIME OUT MASTER. Soon enough, it became clear to the children it was easier to listen to my rules than to sit off on the side and not be able to see anything. Bonus for me, my time out spot was under a shady tree.
After the ceremony, we had second-graders. While the rest of the school was bathed in air-conditioned glory, the gym was not. It was actually hotter in the gym than outside. So 40+ children ran and sweated in the sweltering room. I actually had to use a paper towel to blot my head and neck. Lovely.
The two second-grade teachers thought it was perfectly fine to show up over ten minutes late to pick up their charges because they were setting up to take them outside for sprinkler and popsicle fun.
After a prep and lunch (I fled to the air conditioned teacher’s room), we had eighth-graders. These kids graduated last week. And the day before, only about eight of them showed up. On the last day, nearly ALL of them showed up. The room became hotter and sweatier. Plus I had to make sure they didn’t sneak out the back doors to look for friends on the playground or slip out into the hallway. This would’ve been easier if the other sub cared about helping in these endeavors. He didn’t.
He did, however, confiscate a small (softball size), Styrofoam ball. “No dodge ball,” he told a nice group of girls, who were not using it as a dodge ball. Even if they were, what damage could it do? The room was filled with basketballs, plastic bead jump ropes, and hula-hoops, plus a few folding chairs. If the students wanted to inflict damage on one another, the squishy soft-balled sized dodge ball wouldn’t be the weapon of choice.
The other sub got whacked in the eye with a basketball. After five minutes, he decided to go to the nurse. (Baby.) He returned with ice and a popsicle. Where did he get a popsicle? Did he even think of me? Sniff.
Sixth-graders came next. They were calmer. Ten minutes before class ended, we had to take them to the auditorium for an assembly. (How often do they have assemblies at this school, anyway? This is my FIFTH ONE.) It wound up being a really good band of parents. The students and teachers bopped along to the rock-n-roll music.
When the assembly ended, there was still twenty-minutes left of school. The other gym teacher had disappeared. We were supposed to have the seventh-graders. I spoke with some of the middle school teachers, and we decided to take them outside.
I never saw the other gym teacher again.
It’s funny to watch students and teachers say goodbye, but be outside of their circles. Children and teenagers went out of their way to say “Hi” and “Goodbye” and “Have a good summer” to me in the hallways, but it’s not my school. They’re not my people. This year was easier than the last because my heart had no other place to be.
Now I just have to hope that next June I don’t have another last day of school post that isn’t reporting about my classroom.
Or maybe I'll be talking about my upcoming book release. That would be awesome too.